Is the Obesity Epidemic Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

The obesity epidemic has exacted terrible tolls on our society. Public health officials seem helpless to help us. Despite pouring billions of dollars into research, therapies, education, and so forth, we've made surprisingly little progress.

Caloric Balance, the mainstream theory for why so many people are fat, hinges on the idea that calories "count." Fatty foods, video games, and the like drive us to overeat and become inactive. When we eat "excess" calories, we get fat.

An alternative theory, Lipophilia, tells us that the problem isn't calories, it's our fat tissue. Something is causing it to get too big. And that "something" is a super abundance of the hormone insulin, which stores fat in our fat cells. When we eat too many carbs, we secrete too much insulin, and thus we get fatter, even when we restrict calories and work out. Our fat tissue works "for itself," essentially.

Obesity increases risks for diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. But why does this correlation exist? And what can it tell us about which of our two possible hypotheses is correct?

The Caloric Balance Hypothesis says that calories count and that calories drive obesity. But it tells us nothing about why obesity might associate with diseases.

The Lipophilia Hypothesis says obesity associates with other diseases because they're all different manifestations of the same disease. Expose human beings to a super-insulinogenic environment -- one that we're not biologically adapted for -- and bad things will happen to our bodies. In particular, when we gorge ourselves on carbohydrates -- as we're regularly instructed to do by our public health experts, who have recommended carbohydrates as the base of our food pyramid for three decades now -- we secrete massive quantities of insulin. This not only disregulates our fat tissue but it also throws off our entire metabolic and hormonal ensemble and thus causes diseases, including but not limited to gout, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and so on. In fact, "carbohydrate disease" may even cause problems as far flung as acne, autism, and food allergies.

That is a revolutionary hypothesis. But does it work? See this page for a discussion and links.

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